I wanted to share an excerpt from my novel, A Beautiful Glittering Lie, which is the first book in the Renegade Series. This book is an award winner and a bestseller. It is constantly getting rave reviews as well. In this scene, which takes place early in 1862, the protagonist, David Summers, and his best friend, Jake Kimball, set out for adventure, since they are missing out on the fighting.
Ormsby Mitchel’s Union army marched into undefended Huntsville early the following morning. Once David and Jake found out, they couldn’t wait to investigate. They finally found the opportunity to sneak off early one crisp spring morning a week later.
Devising a plan, they told their parents they were staying at each other’s homes for two nights, thus buying themselves extra time for their adventure. With Jake on Stella and David on Cotaco, they stealthily made their way up to Huntsville. Once they arrived at the outskirts of town the following day, they were awed by the spectacle that lay before them. Union soldiers were everywhere, like blue ants on a picnic, swarming about the city streets. No civilians were in sight. David and Jake tied their horses behind a shed half a mile out and headed into town. They slinked past sentries, cowered behind wagons, barrels, and buildings, and hid in the shadows, making their way toward the courthouse. As they crouched behind a cluster of budding shrubs in front of an enormous white Greek-revival house, peering out at a patrol of Yankees marching down the street, they muttered to each other in hushed tones.
“Lookee, there, Zeke,” Jake said, pointing his index finger. “That must be a general. See all them bars on his sleeve?”
“He ain’t a general,” replied David. “He looks too young. Maybe he’s a corporal.”
“Is that a rank jist below a general?”
“Reckon so. I dunno.”
The boys both jumped in astonishment. Whirling around, they saw a young woman, attired in a pastel-colored calico dress, standing in the doorway of a house. She reacted to their wide-eyed surprise by stifling a snicker.
“Come here, boys!”
Sweeping her arm toward herself, she motioned for them to approach, which they did with anxious enthusiasm by quickly bounding up the steps of the portico.
“Miss, how-do,” said Jake. Removing his slouch hat, he swept it across his body, taking a bow. “How may we be of service?”
“What are you two doin’ lurkin’ ’round my mother’s rosebushes?” she asked, thrusting her fists onto her hips in obvious irritation. “I wish you Yankees would jist—”
David and Jake threw glances at each other.
“We ain’t Yankees!” exclaimed Jake. “Whatever gave you that notion?”
She stared at them for a moment before her expression softened. “Oh, kind sirs, beggin’ your pardon, but all I’ve been seein’ this past week is Yankees. I thought y’all might be out of uniform.”
“No, miss,” David said kindly. “We came up to Huntsville because we heard the Yankees took over the town.”
“Well, in that case, please do come in.”
They followed her through the doorway, and once inside, David took in his surroundings. The receiving room opened up with high ceilings, and stained-glass windows occupied the upper echelon. A dark oak winding staircase, complete with an elaborate banister, spiraled upward. Overstuffed red velvet furniture filled the front room, and the floor was draped with oriental tapestries. On the walls were scenic paintings. Brass candlesticks, crystal chandeliers, and dried floral arrangements displayed under glass bell jars accented the décor. The room-length paned windows, framed by heavy burgundy velvet drapes, allowed bright light to beam in. He noticed a box piano in one corner and wondered if the elegant swan in female form standing before him ever graced its ivories.
“Have the Yankees caused y’all much trouble since they arrived?” he innocently inquired.
She nodded mournfully. “That they have.” Unexpectedly, she let out a little sob.
“Don’t cry, miss,” said Jake reassuringly. “I’m sure everything will be all right.”
She forced a smile. “Thank you … Oh, please do forgive my inhospitality. My name is Emily Levinsworth.”
She held out her slender hand, so Jake graciously took it, and kissed the back of it while she watched his movements.
He released her. “I’m Jake Kimball, and this here’s David Summers.”
Taking his cue, David kissed her hand as well.
“We came up to see what y’all have had to tolerate,” Jake explained.
“Please, come on into the kitchen. I’ll fix y’all some sweet tea and tell y’all about it,” she said in invitation.
They cordially followed her. Once David entered the kitchen, she requested he take a seat at the long cherry table with his friend. Emily busied herself momentarily before carrying over a tray with a pitcher and three glasses. She set them on the table, filled each glass, and distributed them.
Taking a sip, Jake complimented her in gentlemanly fashion and asked, “When did the Yankees arrive? We heard it was last Friday.”
“Those beastly men!” Emily’s face turned red with frustration. “They are everywhere! The dreadful brutes even trampled down some of my mother’s rosebushes, but I chased them off with a broom.”
Jake chuckled, but seeing her annoyed glare, he quickly ceased.
“They got here at first light on the mornin’ of the eleventh,” she said forlornly. “It was a surprise to us all.”
David frowned. He had been warned of the impending danger. Why hadn’t the civilians of Huntsville?
“It all started with their takin’ the trains over at the depot,” she explained. “One train got away, but they wounded the poor nigger fireman. We were soon isolated, because the telegraph lines were cut. There were about a hundred and fifty wounded men on one train who had been at the battle at Pittsburg Landin’, and the Yankees took them all prisoner. Can you imagine? Those poor boys already sufferin’, and along come the Federals to keep them from their medicines.”
“That’s horrific,” said Jake dramatically. “How dare they!”
“The poor souls couldn’t even defend themselves. Well, you can imagine how mortified they were!”
“Yes, miss. We surely can,” David agreed.
“They were kept in the depot for over a week, until those heathens finally decided to send them off to Yankee-land, to wither away in some Godforsaken prison.”
“That’s right awful,” David sympathetically remarked.
Emily shook her head in disgust. “Those horrid rascals played ‘Yankee Doodle’ when they came into town.” She angrily scowled. “They marched right past our house in all their mud-splattered glory, and ended up yonder at Court House Square. Some of them even had the audacity to gloat about our capture!”
“Shameful!” exclaimed Jake. He flashed a glance at David, who raised an eyebrow.
“And then they took down our beloved flag, and hoisted up those atrocious stars and stripes.” Emily shook her head in abhorrence. “I only hope the good Lord in Heaven will spare us any more afflictions.”
“Why don’t you jist leave?” asked David.
“My father wouldn’t hear of it!” she exclaimed. “Some of the more prominent citizens in town ran off. But we want to stay and try to protect that which is ours.”
Suddenly there came an abrupt knock at the front door. “Is anyone in there?” a brusque male voice inquired. “Open up immediately!”
Emily’s eyes flew wide with panic. “They’ve come to steal us blind!” she cried. Hurriedly, she gathered her family’s silverware box from a lower drawer of the dining room sideboard and thrust it into Jake’s hands. “Please, Mr. Kimball. Keep this safe from those despicable men!” She motioned toward the back door and scurried off to answer the front.
David and Jake glared at each other. Having no other plan of recourse, they exited out the kitchen door to the back alley, with Jake concealing the awkward bundle inside his coat. They made their way to their waiting mounts and galloped away from the infested town. After traveling a fair distance, they crossed the Tennessee River and continued south for about a mile. Selecting a group of sweetgum trees, recognizable by their star-shaped leaves, the boys dismounted, stepped off thirty paces east from where the trees were clustered, and buried the silverware box. Nightfall was upon them, so they made makeshift beds from horse blankets on the hard, cold ground, dozed for a few hours, and rode back home, exhilarated by their escapade.